Liverpool vibrant ahead of trek to Old Trafford
A tortuous football season thus far with dozens of twists and turns undoubtedly still ahead.
This weekend hosts the biggest derbies in England, Italy and Spain as Liverpool travel to Old Trafford whilst Inter Milan host Juventus in the Derby d’Italia, and Barcelona prepare to lock horns with Real Madrid in El Clásico.
The first eight rounds of the 2021/22 Premier League campaign have billed a captivating script which has delivered some fluctuating and unforeseeable results. With 80 of 380 matches already etched into the latest Premier League chapter, 212 goals have been scored – 18 fewer than at this stage in 2019/20, the last season that allowed for capacity crowds from the off.
Equally so the UEFA Champions League group stages got off to a fiery start and there have been 145 goals scored in 48 group games, just 6 fewer than in ’19/20. Matchday 3 this week saw 59 goals hit the back of the net (35 on Tuesday, 24 on Wednesday) which is the second-highest amount of goals in a single matchday under the competition's current format.
Halfway into the group stage the quartet of Ajax, Bayern Munich, Juventus, and Liverpool all have maximum points.
Bayern have netted 12 goals – one more than each of Ajax, Liverpool and Manchester City – and are yet to concede in Europe this season, likewise for Juventus. The Bavarians saw off Barcelona, 0-3, before they cruised past Dynamo Kiev (5-0) and brushed aside Benfica, 0-4.
Liverpool grabbed a hard-fought 3-2 home win over AC Milan in addition to victories on their travels to Portugal and Spain. The Group B leaders thrashed Porto, 1-5, and edged Atlético Madrid (2-3) with qualification for next year’s Round of 16 all but certain for Jürgen Klopp's side.
Ajax have conceded just once in 180 minutes of continental football and the Amsterdammers are atop Group C by 3 points over Borussia Dortmund, whom they thrashed 4-0 on Tuesday this week.
Ajax striker Sebastian Haller leads the scoring charts in Europe’s premier club competition with 7 goals, one more than Liverpool forward Mo Salah and Bayern sharpshooter Robert Lewandowski.
Lionel Messi scored his 1st goal as a Paris Saint-Germain player in the Parisians' 2-0 win over Man City. Both teams have 2 wins in Group A, with PSG at the summit and City 1 point off.
Chelsea secured convincing home wins versus Zenit and Malmö but stumbled away to Juventus which has paved the way for La Bianconeri to lead Group H, 3 points above the Blues.
Manchester United got their European campaign off to a poor start as they went down to Young Boys in Switzerland, before United pipped Villarreal in the dying minutes to get their first points on the board. Man Utd later overturned a 2-goal deficit to Atalanta and took all 3 points from the Italian team to occupy top spot in Group F.
UCL results, selected:
Barcelona 0-3 Bayern Munich
BSC Young Boys 2-1 Man Utd
Chelsea 1-0 Zenit
Club Brugge 1-1 PSG
Inter Milan 0-1 Real Madrid
Liverpool 3-2 AC Milan
Man City 6-3 RB Leipzig
AC Milan 1-2 Atlético Madrid
Juventus 1-0 Chelsea
Man Utd 2-1 Villarreal
Porto 1-5 Liverpool
PSG 2-0 Man City
Real Madrid 1-2 Sheriff
Ajax 4-0 Borussia Dortmund
Atlético Madrid 2-3 Liverpool
Benfica 0-4 Bayern Munich
Chelsea 4-0 Malmö
Club Brugge 1-5 Man City
Man Utd 3-2 Atalanta
PSG 3-2 RB Leipzig
Shakhtar 0-5 Real Madrid
Liverpool are proving the team to beat this season with Klopp’s Reds the last remaining club to taste defeat in the Premier League – dropping points to only Chelsea, Manchester City and Brentford.
Liverpool are in 2nd place behind European champions Chelsea who, despite defeat to Man City, top the standings with 19 points from a possible 24.
Chelsea have conceded just 3 goals in their opening 8 league matches and have picked up two resounding victories in North London, first 0-2 at Arsenal before they dismantled Spurs, 0-3.
Chelsea and Man City have kept the most clean sheets with five each.
There is not much splitting Chelsea from their fellow title contenders with Liverpool only a solitary point shy of the Blues, and Man City a further point off Liverpool.
Pep Guardiola and his Citizens have fetched an impressive 17 points from 24 when considering the reigning champions of England have already encountered five of last season's top 8 teams, four away from home.
Man City won at Leicester and Chelsea, as well as a 5-0 demolition at home to Arsenal, all before a dramatic 2-2 stalemate with Liverpool.
Man Utd are the first of the esteemed top four to falter at a hurdle which sees them 5 points off the pace, and a potential defeat to Liverpool this weekend will be a major cause for concern for the Red Devils. United have failed to earn full points in three PL games on the trot, after losses to Aston Villa and Leicester sandwiching a home draw with Everton.
A notable mention for Brighton who are exceeding expectations thus far and occupy 4th place ahead of matchweek 9. Graham Potter’s men have collected 4 wins and 3 draws to sit 4 points off leaders Chelsea, and the high-flying Seagulls have conceded 5 goals in 720 minutes of PL action – only Chelsea and Man City have let in fewer (3).
Brighton face Guardiola’s Man City at the weekend.
Tottenham are level with Brighton on 15 points, Spurs fetching 5 wins surrounding losses to Chelsea, Crystal Palace and North London rivals Arsenal.
After 3 defeats on the bounce the Gunners have surged up the table with 11 points from their following 5 games. Mikel Arteta’s army claimed bragging rights over local foes Spurs and won at Burnley and Norwich, plus draws with Brighton and Crystal Palace.
Newly-promoted Brentford have had a fast start to life in the top-flight, the Bees producing 3 wins and 3 draws from their opening 8 games to put Thomas Frank’s team within 3 points of the top 4, and above the likes of Arsenal & Leicester.
The Foxes stalled at the start of their season with only 2 wins from 7, however a convincing 4-2 win over Man Utd could just be what Brendan Rodgers needed to get his Leicester unit kicking again. The FA Cup holders are in 11th spot with 11 points.
Jamie Vardy and the in-form Mo Salah are joint-top scorers in the Premier League, each with 7 goals.
Burnley, Newcastle and Norwich remain winless after 8 games apiece.
Premier League results, selected:
Arsenal 3-1 Tottenham
Brentford 3-3 Liverpool
Brentford 0-1 Chelsea
Chelsea 0-1 Man City
Crystal Palace 3-0 Tottenham
Everton 0-1 West Ham
Leeds 0-3 Liverpool
Leeds 1-2 West Ham
Leicester 0-1 Man City
Leicester 4-2 Man Utd
Liverpool 2-2 Man City
Man Utd 0-1 Aston Villa
Man Utd 1-1 Everton
Tottenham 0-3 Chelsea
West Ham 1-2 Man Utd
West Ham 1-2 Brentford
Premier League standings:
P W L PTS GD
1. Chelsea 8 6 1 19 +13
2. Liverpool 8 5 0 18 +16
3. Man City 8 5 1 17 +13
4. Brighton 8 4 1 15 +3
5. Tottenham 8 5 3 15 -3
18. Burnley 8 0 5 3 -8
19. Newcastle 8 0 5 3 -9
20. Norwich 8 0 6 2 -14
The PL sack race was won by Xisco Muñoz after Watford parted company with the 41-year-old on 3 October. Just 7 games into the season, the Spaniard was succeeded by former Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri.
Also recently undergoing personnel changes were Newcastle, which resulted in Steve Bruce taking the silver medal in the sack race. In his 1,000th game Bruce’s Newcastle lost 1-4 to Spurs, and within 72 hours the 60-year-old was relieved of his duties.
Two weeks back the Tyneside club changed ownership with a consortium headed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF).
The PIF – which holds an 80% controlling stake of the club – has an estimated value of £320-billion meanwhile the actual takeover bid was reported to be worth £300-million.
Amanda Staveley is CEO of PCP Capital Partners and holds a 10% stake in Newcastle Utd, as does third and final investor, RCB Sports Media.
Needless to say Newcastle supporters, insiders, and former players have been beyond delighted to see the back of former owner Mike Ashley, after the Sports Direct tycoon‘s miserable 14-year spell as chief of the Magpies.
This takeover was years in the making with the first proposal of £250-million from new lead director Staveley coming back in 2017, which was rejected by Ashley who at the time had been calling the shots on Tyneside for a decade.
The 2020 pandemic and a cluster of other unrelated occurrences prolonged the finalising of the takeover on several occasions.
Staveley and co. raised to £300-million which was on the verge of completion mid-2020 before the Saudi-backed consortium pulled out over a TV rights dispute in the Middle East.
After years of ‘heartbreak’, as described by Staveley herself, the Yorkshire pioneer finally achieved her dream as stakeholder of Newcastle United, and the new hierarchy will be looking to convert the Magpies into a significant powerhouse in the coming years, beginning with a new manager in the coming days or weeks.
Super Sunday sees Man Utd battle arch rivals Liverpool at Old Trafford, after West Ham host Spurs in a London Derby.
Premier League fixtures, selected:
24 October - Man Utd vs Liverpool
24 October - West Ham vs Tottenham
30 October - Leicester vs Arsenal
30 October - Tottenham vs Man Utd
6 November - Man Utd vs Man City
7 November - Everton vs Tottenham
7 November - West Ham vs Liverpool
Across to Italy where Napoli lead the way with a perfect record of 8 wins out of 8, conceding just 3 goals and keeping 5 clean sheets.
AC Milan are 2 points short of leaders Napoli, following a 1-1 draw at Juventus.
Scudetto holders Inter Milan are 3rd on 17 points, and have scored the most goals (23) in the league.
Lazio forward Ciro Immobile is the leading scorer with 7 goals.
Serie A results, selected:
AC Milan 2-0 Lazio
Atalanta 2-3 AC Milan
Inter 2-2 Atalanta
Juventus 1-1 AC Milan
Juventus 1-0 Roma
Lazio 3-2 Roma
Lazio 3-1 Inter
Napoli 2-1 Juventus
Napoli 1-0 Torino
Torino 0-1 Juventus
This weekend Napoli visit the capital for a clash with José Mourinho’s Roma, whilst Inter play host to an ailing Juventus side in the Derby d’Italia.
Serie A fixtures, selected:
24 Oct - Roma vs Napoli
24 Oct - Inter Milan vs Juventus
26 Oct - AC Milan vs Torino
30 Oct - Atalanta vs Lazio
31 Oct - Roma vs AC Milan
7 Nov - AC Milan vs Inter Milan
Real Sociedad are surprise leaders in the Spanish LaLiga albeit they have played 1 game more than the trio of Real & Atlético Madrid and Sevilla, all currently on 17 points – three behind Sociedad.
Los Blancos talisman Karim Benzema has so far notched 9 goals and 7 assists, the Frenchman with nine more direct goal contributions than any other player in LaLiga this season.
LaLiga results, selected:
Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Barcelona
Atlético 2-2 Villarreal
Atlético 0-0 Athletic Bilbao
Atlético 2-0 Barcelona
Barcelona 4-2 Real Sociedad
Barcelona 3-1 Valencia
Granada p-p Atlético
Real Madrid 5-2 Celta Vigo
Real Madrid 0-0 Villarreal
Real Madrid p-p Athletic Bilbao
Real Sociedad 0-0 Sevilla
Sevilla p-p Barcelona
Sevilla 3-1 Valencia
Valencia 1-2 Real Madrid
Valencia 1-1 Athletic Bilbao
Tasty affairs all round this weekend in Spain, as Europa League holders Villarreal pay a visit to Bilbao, before Atlético host log leaders Sociedad while Barça and Real Madrid contest El Clásico.
La Liga fixtures, selected:
23 Oct - Athletic Bilbao vs Villarreal
24 Oct - Atlético Madrid vs Real Sociedad
24 Oct - Barcelona vs Real Madrid
Bayern Munich have been sublime under Julian Nagelsmann, with the Bavarians taking 6 wins and a draw from their opening 8 games and scoring a league-high 29 goals, representing a goal every 25 minutes on average.
Borussia Dortmund have also won 6 out of 8 and are 1 point behind Bayern, with Bayer Leverkusen trailing Dortmund by two.
Bayern striker Lewandowski and Dortmund attacker Erling Haaland are both firing away and have 9 goals apiece, with Leverkusen's Patrik Schick on 7 goals.
Bundesliga results, selected:
Bayern 1-2 E Frankfurt
Dortmund 5-2 E Frankfurt
Leverkusen 4-0 M’Gladbach
Leverkusen 3-4 Dortmund
Leverkusen 1-5 Bayern
M’Gladbach 1-1 Bayern
M’Gladbach 1-0 Dortmund
RB Leipzig 1-4 Bayern
Wolfsburg 1-0 RB Leipzig
Wolfsburg 1-3 M’Gladbach
Bundesliga fixtures, selected:
30 Oct - Bayer Leverkusen vs Wolfsburg
6 Nov - RB Leipzig vs Dortmund
In the French Ligue 1, PSG have won 9/10 games and hold a 9-point advantage over 2nd-placed Lens.
In the most recent international break select teams were involved in the UEFA Nations League finals in Italy. In the semifinals Italy tackled Spain in an extremely physical clash.
The Italians went down to 10 men shortly before half-time when skipper Leonardo Bonucci received two bookings, and at the half interval the Azzurri were down by one man and 2 goals.
Italy pulled one back in the second half but it was not enough to avoid defeat to the Spanish, ceasing Italy’s 37-game unbeaten streak with their previous defeat coming to Portugal in September 2018.
F/T Italy 1-2 Spain
Belgium and France met in the corresponding semi and the world champions were 2 goals down at the break, courtesy of Yannick Carrasco & Romelu Lukaku. Les Bleus rallied back and halved the deficit through Benzema, then equalised with Kylian Mbappé. Lukaku was denied a brace by VAR, minutes before Theo Hernandez put France in front in the 90th minute.
F/T Belgium 2-3 France
The Bronze medal match was contested in Turin between Belgium and Euro 2020 winners Italy.
Nicolo Barella’s volley and Domenico Berardi’s penalty were enough to give the Azzurri third place in the second edition of the Nations League.
Belgium grabbed a late consolation goal through Charles De Ketelaere on debut.
F/T Italy 2-1 Belgium
The Nations League Final took place in Milan. Mikel Oyarzabal gave La Roja a second half lead but Benzema’s stunning curling effort drew the French level, before Mbappé netted the winner to hand France the UEFA Nations League title.
Les Bleus became the second winners of the Nations League after inaugural champs Portugal in 2019.
F/T Spain 1-2 France
Questions continue to be asked whether Roberto Martinez is the appropriate candidate responsible for Belgium’s – ageing – golden generation. During the Spaniard’s stint as head coach, the Red Devils finished in 3rd place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia after semifinal defeat to neighbours (and eventual winners) France.
Earlier this year Belgium progressed to the quarter-finals at Euro 2020 and once more were dumped out by the tournament-winning team, as Italy triumphed Europe.
The trend continued in this month‘s UNL Finals, as the top-ranked nation again crashed out to the French who went on to capture Nations League glory.
Belgium lost the 3rd place play-off to Italy.
World Cup Qualifiers were ongoing concurrently to the UNL Finals and Germany became the first non-host nation to confirm their place at Qatar 2022.
The following day Denmark also booked their tickets for the next instalment of the FIFA World Cup, the Danes with a terrific record of 8 games, 8 win, 27 goals for, 0 goals against.
Italian midfielder Jorginho is a frontrunner for the Ballon d’Or which will be awarded to the best men’s player on 29 November. Also in contention are Lewandowski and Benzema, as well as the omnipresent Messi and Ronaldo.
Lewandowski has bagged 53 goals in 45 games for club and country in 2021.
Other Ballon d’Or nominees include N’Golo Kanté, Salah, Mbappé and Kevin de Bruyne.